A dozen New Orleans chefs, restaurants and bars were named as nominees earlier this year for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards. When the foundation announced its finalists Tuesday, seven of them were still in the running for one of the prestigious culinary prizes.
Donald Link, who with his co-chefs runs Herbsaint, Cochon and Pêche Seafood Grill, is up for the Outstanding Chef award, the group’s top honor. He was also nominated for that award in 2014, the year Pêche Seafood Grill took home the national award for Best New Restaurant.
Three more local names remain in the running for national awards. JoAnn Clevenger, of Upperline, is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurateur, an award for which she was also nominated last year. Arnaud’s French 75, the bar at the landmark French Creole restaurant Arnaud’s, is up for the Outstanding Bar Program award, and Restaurant August is a finalist for Outstanding Service.
For this year’s regional Best Chef: South category, three of the five contenders are from New Orleans. They are Justin Devillier, of La Petite Grocery and the newly opened Balise; Alon Shaya, of Domenica, Pizza Domenica and the new Shaya; and Slade Rushing, chef of the new Brennan’s Restaurant on Royal Street.
They’re joined by Jose Enrique, chef of his eponymous restaurant in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Vishwesh Bhatt, of Snackbar, in Oxford, Mississippi, a restaurant run by New Orleans native John Currence.
Last year, the regional award for Best Chef: South was shared by Sue Zemanick, of Gautreau’s Restaurant, and Ryan Prewitt, chef at Pêche Seafood Grill.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the James Beard Awards, which are widely viewed as the top awards for the American restaurant industry. The roster of finalists was culled by an awards committee from a list of some 35,000 nominees submitted by the public during an open call last fall. Winners are revealed at a gala event, which this year will be held in Chicago on May 4 and hosted by chef, author and TV personality Alton Brown.
The Beard Foundation also announced nominees for its journalism and book awards, and several of these have local ties. New Orleans-based writer Brett Martin is a finalist in Dining and Travel for his story “How the Vikings Conquered Dinner,” which appeared in GQ; Tina Antolini is a finalist in the Podcast category for her work with the audio series “Gravy” from the Southern Foodways Alliance; and M. Carrie Allan, drinks writer for the Washington Post, is up for an award for the story “In New Orleans, Terrific Cocktails Never Went out of Fashion.”
The media award winner will be announced in New York on April 24.
Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.